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Why an Apple notebook might be the only one to drop

When there's an Apple notebook in the mix of connected wireless PCs that keeps dropping connection, our wireless networking expert, Lisa Phifer, can tell you what's going on and how to solve this issue.

I have a Linksys WAG54 Wireless-G ADSL Gateway connected to several Dell PCs running XP/SP2. However, one user has a recent Apple notebook that connects but drops out after about five minutes, requiring the user to reconnect. Is there something that I need to do on the Apple notebook to maintain the connection?

Your gateway provides standard 802.11b/g service that is compatible with other Wi-Fi certified b/g adapters. You did not say which Wi-Fi adapter your Apple notebook is using. If you are using an after-market wireless adapter in the notebook, check with the vendor for known interoperability problems. But, assuming the notebook is using a Wi-Fi certified adapter with firmware that complies with the final 802.11g standard, then your problem may lie in wireless configuration or signal strength/interference.

You can find a Linksys guide on configuring Apple clients to work with Linksys wireless products on their Web page. You can find Apple's resources regarding wireless configuration and troubleshooting here, including this how-to page on connecting Macs to third-party wireless networks. Disable any vendor-specific extensions you may have enabled, like performance and range-boosting options. However, given that your notebook successfully connects to the WAG54, I think a configuration mismatch is unlikely.

To circumvent possible corruption, reinstall any wireless-related patches and firmware. For example, I once had a client that mysteriously dropped its wireless connection after a few minutes when associated to a particular brand of router. That client was one of several identical XP/SP2 notebooks in my lab, all using the same wireless PC card, but just one client was affected. After I re-installed Microsoft's WPA2 patch on that client, the problem mysteriously disappeared. Perhaps you will be just as lucky.

If not, you are left diagnosing possible problems related to signal and interference. Try connecting the notebook when positioned at different angles from the WAG54. Reduce distance between the notebook and WAG54 to see if that has a positive impact. Set your WAG54 to a different channel, at least temporarily, to circumvent any interference on the frequency you are currently using (e.g., moving from channel 1 to channel 11 can avoid microwave interference). If your WAG54 is operating in b/g mode and your notebook is using an 802.11g adapter, try configuring the WAG54 for g-only mode (or vice versa).

Finally, if you have a third-party Wi-Fi adapter handy, try using it in the notebook to see if that might circumvent the problem. That may not be ideal as a permanent fix, but it can help you determine whether the culprit is the notebook or its wireless adapter.

This was last published in November 2006

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